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Defective Seatbelts

Did you know that between 2002 and 2004, seatbelt manufacturer Indiana Mills and Manufacturing, Inc. (IMMI) manufactured and sold defective seatbelt buckles for use in heavy trucks and school buses.

The buckles were defective due to an internal design defect that causes them to fail to latch. The occupant may not notice that the buckle is not latched. IMMI acknowledged the failure and in 2004 redesigned the H2 buckles; however the defective buckles have not been recalled. As a result, thousands of heavy truck drivers are at risk of death or serious injury if their older model H2 buckles fail in a collision. Because the driver will likely be ejected, an investigating officer will probably conclude that the driver was not wearing his seatbelt. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident involving a truck or school bus, call our Law Firm at 800-862-1260.

Suspecting a Seat Belt Failure

The performance of a seat belt and potential effectiveness is highly dependent upon the facts of an individual accident. While it is difficult to generalize, the following facts, if present, might indicate a seat belt problem:

  • The seat belt webbing is torn or ripped or the seat belt is pulled loose from its anchors. This could be indicative of either a seat belt defect or some other type of vehicle defect.
  • Both serious and non-serious injuries to belted occupants. For example, if one belted occupant walks away while another belted occupant is paralyzed or suffers a serious head injury.
  • An occupant is found unbelted but either the occupant or other passenger insists he or she was seat belted. This could indicate inertial unlatching or false latching.
  • An injured occupant is found wearing a loose-fitting seat belt. This could indicate the presence of excess slack.
  • An occupant in a frontal collision makes contact with the windshield. This might indicate the presence of excess slack or retractor failure.
  • A seriously injured belted occupant in a vehicle with limited structural damage. For example, if there is limited roof crush and limited intrusion into the occupant compartment during a rollover yet a belted occupant sustains head or neck injuries.
  • Serious injuries in a minor to moderate collision. When a restraint system works properly, occupants typically should not receive serious injuries in minor or moderate speed collisions.

Evidence that a seat belt failed because of design or manufacturing defects is often subtle and can be difficult to detect. If a belt failure is suspected, the most important thing to do is preserve the vehicle and the seat belt system since it is extremely difficult to prove that a seat belt failed without the physical evidence.

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